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As a millennial living and working in Malaysia, I often struggle to find a balance between work and leisure. I find myself tuning out of reality to just play games after plopping down my work bag and having dinner.

However, does this mean that I do not have time to socialise, exercise, clean my room or walk my dog? Well, not really.

It’s just the fragile act of balancing work and life among other things. And I often give excuses for not exercising because I can’t commit 30 minutes out of my 24 hours to do so—regardless of whether it’s out of pure laziness or bad time management.

I am also a terrible advocate for discipline as I often find myself staying up way too late, oversleeping because I slept late, and so the cycle continues.

Let’s say you do spend the bulk of your time at work. But is 100% of that time spent productively? To be honest, I’m not always productive (sorry boss!) as I get distracted by the internet, my phone, my co-workers’ chatter, and so on.

So, I decided to give 5 time management apps a try to see if they would help me optimise my time for greater productivity.

The apps are unranked and simply listed alphabetically, so I’m not playing favourites. Some of them are better suited to specific aspects of your life (work, play or sleep) that require time management, and they all function in different ways, too.

Forest

Forest encourages you to stay focused on your current task

Forest is one of the more unique apps in the list as it doesn’t remind you of tasks that need to be done; it merely times you on the task that you are currently doing.

I can set a 10-minute timer for myself to write continuously for 10
minutes without checking my phone and a tree/bush will grow. I still
can minimise the app and play on my phone, but at the end of the day,
it is all about accountability.

It is basically an app that guilts you into working harder, to put it in simpler terms. You can also check your forest and see the trees and bushes that you’ve planted.

The timer set decides what you are planting. If you set a timer for more than 25 minutes, it will grow into a tree. With tasks under 25 minutes, bushes are planted instead.

Habitica

Turns Life Into A Game / Image Source: LWN.net

Time management apps are no longer just simple task-based apps where you just type in a task and that’s it.

One of the examples is Habitica which incorporates gaming elements such as levelling up, fighting bosses, quests and more (it’s basically an RPG). I’ve not encountered a boss in Habitica yet, so I’m not sure how that works.

Whenever you
complete a task, you gain experience and coins and eventually level
up. Of course, when it comes to inputting tasks, being honest to
oneself is vital as you can easily spam a task and gain levels. But
what use will it be if you don’t actually learn from it?

In terms of time
management, you can create daily tasks, and set reminders for when
you want the task to be completed.

As for actual
usefulness, it depends on the person using the app. If you’re like
me and enjoy games, Habitica might be the app of choice as it
gamifies daily to-dos and promotes habits that you want to cultivate.

The game also has a
community where you can mingle with other Habitica users in the
forum, party up or join guilds. Having someone to hold you
accountable is also a good way to keep yourself in check.

SleepTown

Building a town just by sleeping. / Image Source: julieontheline

SleepTown is another app from the devs that made Forest, so you can roughly expect what this app does.

It functions just like Forest but instead of building a forest, you’re building a city by sleeping. Yes, you heard me right. All you have to do is turn on the app, go to sleep on time and wake up on time for the building to be completed.

If you wake up too late or use your phone during your supposed sleep time, the buildings will be destroyed, meaning you’ve failed your goal.

The purpose of the app is to develop a healthy sleeping habit that isn’t the norm for most of us nowadays.

Smarter Time

It tells me how many minutes I’ve wasted on Facebook, with the overlay enabled, it even tells you how many hours you’ve spent looking at your phone.

Smarter Time is an app that will create a log based on activities or apps opened on your phone. It runs smoothly in the background and does drain the battery slightly.

As exemplified in the image above, I can see the apps that I’ve opened on my phone and how long I used them for. For example, Waze sits on top of my list as it is an app that I personally use a lot for my journey to and from work.

If I open up the
Analytics page, it can even show my movement map, a sketch of where
I’ve been throughout the day, which could come in useful sometimes.

It also has a tab
that allows me to limit my phone usage throughout the day. While it
doesn’t completely block me from using my phone, I can enable it to
send me annoying pop-ups to limit my time spent on the phone.

I enabled it to
annoy me about my usage of the Facebook app and while scrolling, a
numbered circle popped-up on my screen to tell me how many minutes
I’ve wasted on the app.

TickTick

TickTick is even available on Apple Watch

TickTick in its essence is just a simple reminder app. I can create a to-do list using the app, and categorise it using labels and priorities.

Labelling tasks allows me to easily look for actions that are listed
under the label and then I can view the tasks based on priorities.

Setting a reminder for a task is also fairly simple. When the time is up, it will send a notification to prompt you about an action that needs to be taken. It’s simple and easy to use.

-//-

Most Malaysians are overworked because we fail to thread the needle of a work-life balance.

Some even find the balance a total myth and I would agree with them. But the purpose of these apps isn’t to make life a 50/50 juggle, but rather to help you cultivate the habit of managing your time better.

However, getting into the routine of constantly updating the apps is not an easy task at all. It still boils down to discipline and motivation.

The apps also have to be enticing enough for you to keep on going back until you form that habit, and how attractive they are to you would be subjective.

At the end of the day, only you hold the key to changing the way you live.

  • You can find out more about the apps on their official sites Forest, Habitica, SleepTown, Smarter Time and TickTick.